Anthony Watson has been in the United States for more than 20 years now, but the images and impact of his war-torn homeland are still top of mind.
“Families torn apart, no food to eat. Having to drink, shower and wash clothes in the same lagoon where we’d seen the bodies of people we knew floating,” Watson, an electrical engineer at DTE Energy said of his life in Liberia.
Keeping in mind his struggles, when he reached the U.S., Watson promised to do whatever he could to help the people of his homeland.
“I never thought I’d be an engineer. I never thought the opportunity was there for me because of where I grew up,” Watson said. “DTE Energy has created a diverse environment where employees feel valued and inspired,” said Watson. Inspired by DTE Energy’s atmosphere and his engineering problem solving skills, Watson knew that he could do more for humanity. “My parents sacrificed so much for our family, which propelled me to start Loving Arms For Liberia. I wanted to help others have a better life, the way my parents helped us.”
In 2005, Watson placed a barrel at the service center where he worked, with a note asking his DTE colleagues to drop donations – clothes, shoes, non-perishable food, toys. Later that year he travelled to Monrovia, Liberia to deliver the donations to families, clinics and hospitals across three villages still impacted by the war.
Vowing to do even more, Watson started Loving Arms for Liberia, a non-profit aimed at improving the lives of people in the country by providing necessities. With help from his DTE family, he placed more barrels and collected more goods that he’d ship to the villages every year.
Now, he’s ready to return to his native country, this time with trailers full of donations – books, food, toys and computers. Even bikes to help get kids to school. Items that can’t be used like winter coats (Winters in Liberia are hot and humid) are donated to local Detroit agencies. He and his family will travel to Liberia in August.
Last year, Loving Arms For Liberia hosted the first annual Back to School Extravaganza. In Liberia, the organization passed out items that were collected at DTE service centers and celebrated the opening of Loving Arms For Liberia’s fully functional computer lab in a local high school, adopted by the organization. DTE donated the computers as well as bicycles at the event, to ensure children have safe, reliable transit to get to school. The organization is also creating an environmentally-friendly LEED- Certified learning resource center that will house another computer lab, medical clinic, kitchen, library, study rooms, locker rooms, gymnasiums, indoor and outdoor eating areas and more. At a recent charity dinner, the group raised over $7,000 for this project.
Since its founding, Loving Arms For Liberia, with the donations from DTE Energy and Detroiters, has helped provide supplies and create opportunities for Liberians with much needed donations.